Burger King made a proposition to McDonald’s: a cooperative burger to commemorate September 21st, National Peace Day.
The concept is simple. One of the most intense rivalries in the world makes an extremely public gesture of friendship. At one pop-up location, in Atlanta, Georgia, halfway between the two companies’ main offices, a collaboratively designed burger is offered in exchange not for money, but for declarations of peace on the tray mats.
Seriously. Every person who agrees to “settle a beef” with someone they have a bad relationship with gets a free symbolic end to the burger wars in the form of a McWhopper.
Burger King offered some packaging suggestions and cool animations, and included lots of chances for visitors to share — which they did. This is a great example of the kind of clever large-scale promotions franchisees can get from large corporate offices, which they could never do on their own.
That’s one of the benefits of being a franchisee, and Burger King franchisees shared in the coolness points. They proposed a sandwich which would essentially be the top of a Big Mac resting on a Whopper, and the world waited with bated breath for McDonald’s response. McDonald had an opportunity to join in a feel-good publicity stunt, but only if they were willing to accept Burger King’s idea.
Instead, McDonald’s came back with a counter offer.
Commenters around the web took McDonald’s response as snippy and bad-tempered, and that wasn’t just major media like Forbes and fashionable blogs like Serious Eats. At Facebook and Twitter, consumers called McDonald’s out for being a meanie, and McDonald’s lost all their possible coolness points.
“You’re no fun and your ego is showing,” went one of the thousands of shaming comments, while another said McDonald’s was “snarky and out of touch.” Responses have been overwhelmingly negative toward McDonald’s.
McDonald’s has a history of social media faux pas: their #McDStories twitter campaign a couple of years ago brought out McDonald’s haters in droves. At the time, it seemed obvious to most observers that this would happen. If McDonald’s team had gone out on the street and asked people, “Tell me a McDonald’s story,” they would quickly have found that horror stories outnumber happy family stories.
In this case, too, it’s hard not to feel that showing that response to a few people before posting it would have gotten some responses like, “Are you serious? You’re going to refuse an olive branch for World Peace Day?”
McDonald’s is certainly a very successful franchise, and being bad at social media doesn’t mean they’re not a great investment. But this event is a reminder to look at the decisions your potential franchise businesses have made. Many decisions are just as public as this one, and modern consumers feel free to chip in with their opinions.
How have the franchises you’re considering handled challenging situations like this one? With a shot from the hip or a well-considered plan?